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The Freeh Report, Joe Paterno and NCAA Sanctions

By       Message Walter Uhler     Permalink
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According to the Freeh Report, "Schreffler's file notes state that Lauro agreed that no sexual assault occurred.[p. 47, my emphasis] Thus, both of the experts on the case had reached that conclusion. "Schreffler and Lauro also told Sandusky that "the police could not determine if a sexual assault occurred." [my emphasis]Thus, thanks to a botched investigation, Sandusky was off the hook.

The Freeh Report provides valuable new information about what Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno knew about the investigation of Sandusky in 1998. The new information comes in the form of emails between Spanier, Schultz and Curly, as well as notes kept by Schultz. Schultz's notes indicate that he became aware of the virtually all of the details of the investigation on May 4, 1998, the day after the alleged assault occurred. They also provide a glimpse into his thought process: "Behavior -- at best inappropriate @ worst sexual improprieties." The conduct was "At min -- Poor Judgment."

At the end of his notes dated May 4th, Schultz asks himself: "Critical issue -- contact w genitals? Assuming same experience w the second boy? Not criminal."

If Schultz or anyone else was thinking the case was "not criminal" on May 4th, that certainty must have diminished on May 5th, when Schultz was given information confirming a second boy hugged by Sandusky in a shower. Thus, Schultz wonders: "Is this opening of Pandora's box? Other children?"

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Arguably, Schultz's questions indicate a concern for other children and, thus, refute the "most saddening" finding made in the Freeh Report: "the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims."

(I say "arguably," because other evidence "arguably" implies that a concern for children was not foremost in the minds of some Penn State officials.)

After Schultz communicated with Curley about the Sandusky incident, Curley sent an email to Schultz and Spanier on May 5th that states: "I have touched base with the coach. Keep us posted." [p. 48] The email is captioned "Joe Paterno," thus there's good reason to conclude that Paterno was notified about the Sandusky investigation.

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The precise meaning of "touched base," however, remains an open question. It tells us virtually nothing about the extent of Paterno's knowledge of the 1998 investigation. Although my common sense tells me Curley would have had frequent contact with Paterno on this issue, it tells me nothing about the depth or detail of that contact.

Moreover, although common sense can be applied to evidence, common sense is not evidence. Only two pieces of actual evidence shed any light on Paterno's knowledge about the investigation of Sandusky. The first is the previously mentioned email, captioned "Joe Paterno," which has Curley claiming he's touched base with "the coach."

The second is another email from Curley to Schultz, dated 13 May 1998, but which is captioned "Jerry." Curley asks: "Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands."

The authors of the Freeh Report concluded that "[t]he reference to Coach is believed to be Joe Paterno." [p. 49] Yet, they not only fail to explain why the second email has a different caption, they also fail to provide reasons for their belief. Thus, one cannot completely rule out the possibility that the "Coach" referred to in the email captioned "Jerry" is actually Jerry Sandusky.

Resolving this question is a very important, because if Joe was "anxious" about the investigation, then any subsequent claim that he didn't know about 1998 becomes highly implausible. Memory can deceive, but an event someone was anxious about is less likely to be forgotten completely.

(Before proceeding further, the problems associated with memory are worth repeating. In a previous article, I wrote: "In Chapter 4 of his book, The Birth of Christianity, John Dominic Crossan attempted to answer the question: "Does Memory Remember?" Crossan examined the scholarly literature devoted to memory, including a very persuasive study conducted at Emory University, where psychology students were asked to complete a questionnaire about the Challenger spacecraft explosion (in January 1986), a mere day after it exploded. When representatives from Emory asked those same students the same questions three years later, they found their answers to be significantly different. These students had "constructed' different memories during those three years without realizing it -- leading Crossan to conclude: "Memory is as much or more creative construction as accurate recollection.'")

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Thus, given that the Freeh Report provides no evidence to support its belief that "Coach" is Joe, the matter must await the perjury trial of Curley and Schultz for possible resolution. (As the reader will soon see, this is not the only matter that must await -- or should have awaited -- the Curley/Schultz trial.)

In any event, there are no more than two pieces of evidence in the Freeh Report that tie Joe Paterno in any way to the investigation of Jerry Sandusky in 1998 -- and even one of them is questionable. Thus, although we can guess all we want about Paterno's involvement, we're still compelled to do so without much proof. Don't get me wrong, that hasn't stopped the pundits or character assassins.

In my mind, the decisive email -- the email on which every one of us should base most, if not all, of our thoughts when considering whether we must hold Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno accountable for the sexual assaults committed by Sandusky between June 1998 and February 2001 -- is the email that Schultz sent to Curley and Spanier on June 9th. In that email, Schultz writes that the investigators had "concluded that there was no criminal behavior and the matter was closed as an investigation." Schultz closes that email by asserting: "I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us." [my emphasis]

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)

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